Wednesday, 16 September 2015

How I Make Polymer Stamps For Crafters Only!

This is not meant for industrial stamp producers, only us crafters.

If you read my previous blog, you will have noted that while it is possible to make polymer stamps at home, it isn't perhaps quite as easy as some quarters lead you to believe.

However, if you are determined to have a go, then let me share my hints and tips so that you may at least stand a chance of success before you rip out your hair and sear your eyeballs.

I have made a video showing the equipment I have assembled and the basic how to put it together.  Due to the nature of video, I can't put everything in, it isn't scripted and that means I also forget to mention things!

Anyway, watch the video and then come back here to get the low down. I'll go have a cuppa while I wait for you to catch up. I suggest you get one to have while reading this little lot.

Back now? Sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Get your design ready.  Mine were printed (twice) on Vegetable paper/ parchment on a Canon MG3550 using fine print, best quality. If you can do it on OHP film your times may well be different.

Start small so as to test the timing without wasting too much polymer. Make sure to have your TIMER READY - and know how to use it. You don't have time to mess around when it's in use. BTW, it needs to be accurate (digital) or you will be very frustrated!

Get everything ready in advance. If you are not next to a bathroom like me, then also have a bowl of hot water with detergent in it ready.
The stack is made by taping the negative (double layer don't forget) right side up, to the base plate.  This seems to work and there is then no need to reverse words (which you must do if you place it ink side down.) Cover it with a piece of acetate that is a bit bigger. This is to protect your negative for future use and stop mess. Tape it down flat. You don't want wrinkles, which is why I use acetate not thinner cellophane.
Make the dam for your design, leaving (if sensible) about half an inch around the lines you want exposed. If you put it too close, there is a risk that the edges of your design will not be as deep and that will cause bad stamping.  Ensure that the dam is on the dark part of your negative ( to block incoming light.)

Gently pour in the polymer, filling about 3/4 full. Use a pin to get rid of any bubbles on the base - a few minute ones on the top won't matter. While that is being done, warm up the UV lamp for  a short time, but keep it away from your resin! It only takes about a minute but if you don't do that, your times can vary too much.

Make sure to close the lid on the polymer. Mine came from here, so if you are having a go, at least you know which brand I used. It is clear, colourless, a bit of a smell to it but not too bad. Timings on different brands may vary, so I can only give times for what I have tried. Make sure to have changed the top on it before you start. I'm warning you, you'll regret it if you don't.

Put a layer of acetate just bigger than your dam, on top. Press gently in the centre of the design to make sure all the edges get filled and that it is flat on top.

Add the glass and clamp together, you do need to clamp. Alternatively you could glue magnets on the inside but I was unable to find the right size - two must not be deeper than your dam!

Keeping your stack up the same way you made it, put it in for 8 seconds to make the 'floor'. Your stamp has no material on the back to hold it together unless this is done correctly.

Take it out and turn it over, you are now going to set the front, the bit that will contact the paper when you stamp.

Put it in for exactly 60 seconds.

Separate the glass and remove the package from inside. Peel apart and you should just see a vague design in there on one side. It feels like Christmas!

Take it to the hot soapy water and gently scrub in a circular motion, to remove the excess goo. By now, if all is well, you should be able to feel the raised bits under your fingers.

Take it to the small container of cool water and put it under the lamp for a couple of minutes. If it is still sticky, you can give it longer - a minute or so, until it is firmed up nicely. Rinse and dry. Trim off unwanted bits.  If the acetate is still on the back, either leave it there to store or remove it, up to you. If you store it like that, you simply peel it off to use it on your acrylic block, like any other stamp.

You should now be able to give yourself a pat on the back. If not, start again!

NOTE - I did try to use picture glass but it was too thin and could not easily be used without fear of breaking it. I also tried some hard plastic but it still had too much flex in the middle and that led to inconsistency of results.

From my experimentation, for me a total dry cure of 68 seconds works. If making lettering you don't have enough 'floor' to hold it, but the top seems ok, increase the floor time. If letters are losing detail, (letters filling in) decrease the second cure by a couple of seconds. Basically, I know the total time and adjust either layer up or down if there is a problem, but the total stays the same.

For basic images, I have used 6 seconds and 56 seconds. I've not done photo images, since that is not what I want to do, but for that you will need a longer base time and shorter top time.

You can choose to make a thicker stamp - increase the thickness of the foam dam and spacers. However, if you do, you may need to increase times to compensate. I'm only making stamps for fun, they don't have to stand up to a lot of abuse.

So there you have it, I've done all the hard work. This is as basic as it gets regards kit. I've tried every other way of making negatives imaginable and nothing else worked. The thick glass works really well, the thin glass or perspex, did not.

That is a two inch stamp block.


  1. Hi, thank you so much for sharing your research and experience with making your own stamps! I have a question about the polymer. You mention to change the top on it. Do you mean the lid of the bottle that the liquid polymer comes in? Do you mean to replace the original cap or lid? Thanks for your help!

  2. I just saw your video again, and I see that you transferred the liquid to a shampoo bottle. Thanks for clarifying that in the video!